Products That Can Tell a Story

I have a friend who’s a professional storyteller. Her job is to get up in front of people and talk to them in a way that captivates and enthralls. She can transport audiences from the auditoriums, classrooms, churches, and libraries she performs in to fantastic and wonderful places, both real and imagined. Though she’s good at what she does, her primary task is based on a fundamental concept: present to your audience in a way that relates to their needs and desires to become engaged. They will willingly follow you.

I think about effective rich media marketing in much the same way. Though stories marketers offer may not all be magical and filled with suspense, they still have points to make and are in search of an audience. Like all good stories, they must be interesting and able to take the audience to a place they’re willing to go. Not everyone will take part, but if you tell the story well enough, you can even capture people who had no intention of coming along.

Using rich media technologies to communicate with an audience isn’t new. But over the years, a better understanding of how to use those technologies to tell a good story has emerged. Banners and pop-up ads were once the norm for rich media presentations, but a lack of good storytelling soured the format for many.

Today, solid interactive marketing tools are much further along. Unlike teaser ads, which encourage click-throughs to Web sites, many of today’s marketing tools contain the entire marketing message and, in some cases, a way to close the sale. This month, we’ll take a closer look at the interactive technologies I feel represent the next phase of effective online marketing and advertising. Through techniques and formats may differ in how they tell stories, the core value of being able to provide a meaningful experience that meets the needs of an audience is a constant.

POPstick

While the industry looks at ways to incorporate more rich media content into online marketing solutions, the folks at POPstick have already created marketing programs that rival what’s to come. With Macromedia Flash technology, POPstick has created ad formats as savvy as any TV spot, but with the added value of interactivity.

These interactive spots can take the form of microsites, e-newsletters, or email messages. The garner a response rate two to five times higher than most direct marketing campaigns. Not only is the programming solid and captivating, but POPstick’s POPgram structure is designed to inspire viral marketing and pass-alongs. This may just be what the future of TV advertising will look like.

Viewpoint

The team at Viewpoint also does some great things with the interactive direct marketing format. I wouldn’t necessarily refer to it as an interactive catalog provider, but it’s creating some very impressive marketing modules that provide consumers with the opportunity to thoroughly explore the product features before making a buying decision. Though simple in its design, the virtual exploration of the Sony Style campaign is fully complete. It’s second only to being able to view the computer products in person. The Seiko ad places the current time and date on the watch face when profiling its features — nice touch! From a marketing standpoint, these ads provide a great deal more consumer information than would ever be possible in a TV spot.

Skyworks

Another company that’s been on my radar is Skyworks. It specializes in creating gaming modules that can be branded and presented on Web sites or as email content. Interactive ad gaming isn’t new, but the quality of Skyworks’ games is far greater than those often created on the fly for in-page ad clients, back in rich media advertising’s early days.

I’ve cautioned advertisers against creating game modules that draw consumer attention away from branding opportunities. With most Skyworks modules, branding is front and center. Add to that the opportunity to acquire a player’s email address and other information, and you’ve got a pretty solid marketing opportunity. The only issue? It may be the loss of personal productivity a consumer experiences after running into one of those ads!

Like any other type of advertising, these marketing formats won’t appeal to everyone. By providing consumers with the opportunity to have an experience (as opposed to being assaulted by an offer that may not be welcome), they play a big part in marketing success stories.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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